In his last week before training camp, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick hung around in Lake Tahoe for the celebrity golf tournament. We were there, as you probably read. The former Harvard star finished tied for 60th in the tournament, which isn’t great. But hey, his mind is on football.
Speaking of that, Fitzpatrick was already excited to get to Pittsford, N.Y. for camp. With good reason. It was a busy offseason for the Bills, who signed pass-rusher Mario Williams in a massive steal. It’s not the only reason he’s amped to get started. And he’s also not the only one who feels that way.
“It’s been really exciting just for the city of Buffalo in general,” Fitzpatrick told me recently. “The fans there are so great. I think the optimism surrounding the team right now is really up there. It’s the highest it’s been since I’ve been in Buffalo going into Year 4. We feel that as players. We feel the excitement and optimism, to be honest.”
Free agency was good. So were the signs last season, including shocking the Patriots and starting off hot. By now, Fitzpatrick thinks he gets what he’ll see on the field. He has a good view of his locker room.
“You know when you have a talented team, and I think we do just looking around the locker room,” Fitzpatrick said. “Guys are working hard. OTAs, the attendance was great. Mini-camps, too. So there’s a lot of optimism not only in the city of Buffalo, but in our locker room.”
The Bills haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999, the longest drought in the NFL. The Patriots every year appear to be a lock to make it from the AFC East. Will Buffalo fill the other spot? Or knock the Pats off?
“That’s the goal,” Fitzpatrick said, when I asked if this is the year for the playoffs. “I don’t like to make the big bold predictions or anything, but I think our goal is to get back to the playoffs. We have a long drought. I think the city deserves it. I think the coaches and us as players. We’re putting in the work to get there. I think our big goal, make it to the playoffs.”
Is this the year? I can’t wait to find out.